I’ve got a new screensaver or desktop background…whatever you call it. It’s Rhonda and Ava on the beach in San Diego. The Bird is showing something to her mom, who’s bent over and listening. She looks so big in it. Around her waist her little jacket is tied. On her feet are colored flip flops…like her mom’s. That picture says so much to me. I’ve been watching it and wondering what they were talking about, how Ava got to this point so quickly and why that moment is gone forever, save the picture on my desktop. Today is a strange day. I’m alone in the front room at about 8am and everyone else is sleeping. There’s so much going on in my head that I thought I would wake up earlier. Hmm.
For starters, I’m going back in for a check-up and to schedule my hernia surgery. That, of course, has me feeling old. Depressed too. The whole premise of proactively sticking myself under the knife is that it’s a bad financial move to not do it. We maxed out our insurance deductible months ago. Not exactly like saying “Hey there’s an extra five grand in the account. Let’s go on a vacation!” It’s more like “Wow. We’ll really get ratfucked of I don’t ask the hospital to stick a knife in my body this year – right by my testicles.”
After that, Lily is going in to have her cast removed and the pins taken out of her arm…which will be miserable. From what I’ve heard, taking the pins out isn’t much of a surgical process; they just grab a pair of pliers and yank them out, no anesthetic or anything. Yes, you read that correctly. I guess somewhere underneath that bulging cast there are actual pins sticking out of her arm…as in through the bone and skin and just…I don’t know…sitting there. Then they pull them out. Vomit. And my role is obviously to be the strong dad who shows resolve and encouragement. Vomit x 2.
But I can deal with my own discomfort of a hernia check up. And, though it won’t be fun, I’ll get over watching Lily in pain or being nauseous from watch her procedure – whichever is greater. But the third big ticket item on my daily docket has me a little spun up and anxious to a physical degree; my little Ava has school orientation today.
It’s very clear that she’s nervous too. For the past three weeks, since Lily broke her arm, Ava has exchanged her over-sized vocabulary and worldly perspective for talking like a baby, non-stop thumb sucking and having outbursts and pouting. Surprising? Not at all. The truth of it all is that she’s always been well adjusted and old for her age. We’ve know that these things were inevitable and completely normal. But it’s the integration of observational and academic theory and actually being parents that is more challenging than we thought. Observation and academics are frustration-free, being a parent is not. In real time, I’m hyper concerned about not making the wrong decisions in dealing with her toddler angst. Even though I know that the ‘right thing’ is to weather the symptoms and deal with the underlying reasons she’s acting out, it’s hard to keep perspective sometimes. It’s much easier, sometimes, to deal with the presenting behavior and not consider the underlying source. But that would be the…um…wrong thing. Last night at the mall, even Lily said “You better not be talking like a baby, Bird!” Whoa. That sure made me pause and consider what messages I’ve been sending to my little girl. How about that? I apparently need a two year old to mirror back my behavior in order to understand where I am sucking as a parent.
Now school. Ugh. I have so many fears about her going to school. For four years we’ve had her in our private little secret garden. Now she’s going to be exposed to all the ‘others’…the other kids, their opinions and parents…all that. I picture wretched, dirty little kids filling her head with admonitions about how to circumvent my role as a dad. Then the prissy little girls with absentee parents who take issue with her affinity for colorful clothes that don’t always match (ok never match). Or boys. Ugh. Fuck that. I can’t talk about that right now. And you know some of them are going to be assholes. That’s just how it is in life. Her getting picked on is a horrifying thought to me. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – that leads me to believe that I can handle anyone being mean to my little baby. And I know I need to get over it, that it’s going to happen, that there are life lessons built into everything good and everything bad…but I seriously feel under equipped for coping with that right now.
Yesterday morning she woke up, threw a finger into her nose and pulled out a booger – then ate it. Rhonda saw it but I didn’t. “Bird! You can’t do that! If you do that at school other kids might make fun of you! Plus its gross! Where did you learn that? Don’t do it again, ok? OK??”